First Job

“First job:Be older sister

Second job:Cope with first job

Third job:Get annoyed with jobs.” 


Since I wrote about first borns, I could not get the picture I used in that story out of my mind. This picture is such a great example of our three personalities. My sister, Beth, the middle child, is the curly haired pixie on the left. My sister, Sue, the youngest, is the wide-eyed cutie on the right.

According to Natalle Lorenzi in the online Parents magazine article, How Birth Order Shapes Personality, the middle child is the opposite of the first born which happens because that role is already filled. The middle child will find another way to distinguish themselves. The traits the middle child develops is in direct response to the next oldest in the family. This makes the personalities of middle children difficult to pinpoint. Ingela Ratledge in a Real Simple article on birth order and personality traits, describes the middle child as a social butterfly, a peacekeeper, and fairness obsessed.

In our family, this describes Beth very well. She was by far the happiest kid around. Regardless of what was going on she found ways to roll with the flow. Her light heartedness enabled her to diffuse some of the heated arguments between the oldest, me, and the baby, Sue. She was all about being fair and was an expert when it came to compromise. Her ability to stay neutral carried into our adult lives and is certainly sorely missed.

For many reasons, my youngest sister, Sue, had a childhood with fewer rules, which is typical for the youngest child. Due to family issues, as Sue grew older our home rules became much more lenient if there were rules at all. This freedom definitely opened the world to Sue and allowed her to be a more care free person. When it came to risk taking, she was the winner, hands down.

There are several things that can throw off birth order. According to Dr. Frank Salloway, PhD., genetics affects personality development but half of our personality it due to the temperament we are born with–where we fall in the family order. The first born is expected to excel at whatever it is the family prizes. If the first born does not assume that role, it goes up for grabs.

Gender is also important in family role assignments. Dr. Alan E. Stewart gives the example of the first born being male and assuming the typical first born role. The second born is a girl. She does not need to create a new niche like a second born boy would which creates the possibility of two first borns. In large families with a lone girl or boy the “exotic” role enables that child to escape the position they were born into and move into the position of choice.

Physicality plays a role in role assignment. Dr. Kevin Leman, Birth Order Book, tells us that age and size often go together. Older kids boss around younger kids except when there is a very small oldest child or a very outgoing middle or youngest child. In those cases the dynamic can flip-flop.

When one child is “special” a change in the typical dynamic can change. That star figure skater or violin prodigy gets the prime treatment and pressure usually assigned to the first born. For that chosen one, according to Dr. Leman, being special will negate birth order and the other children will adjust their roles.

If children are close in age there will be more competition. One to two years age difference in the same gender children will create more conflict meaning more stress for the parents. In this case, the second child may overtake the first born role by being stronger and faster. A three or four year separation is called the sweet spot. These children are close in age but far enough apart they can establish their own identity. An age span of five years or more is like hitting the reset button–the roles already established do not change. A second child born ten years after the first born will take on the first born role or the only child role–a role described as a “super first born” personality. For large families, family counselor, Shai Lagarde, tells us birth order recycles after the fourth child.

What about the only child? Dr. Lehman states that only children are “super first borns.” They are confident, well spoken, pay attention to detail and do well in school. They act like little adults. Because they only have adults as role models, they are even more susceptible to perfectionism.

The few articles I found gave me some great insight into my family, friends, and co-workers.  It was fun to read the people who were also first born–Barack Obama, Oprah, Hillary Clinton, Penelope Cruz, and Kate Middleton. For you middle children, the list of other middles include–Martin Luther King, Princess Diana, and Bill Gates. Interesting, Donald Trump is a middle child. His older brother did not fulfill the role of fist born so Mr. Trump is an excellent example of a middle child rising to the first born position and personality type. You babies of the family, other youngest children include–Rosie O’Donnell, Paula Abdul, and Cameron Diaz. Finally, for you only children, other “super first borns” are–Natalie Portman, Tiger Woods, Alicia Keys, and Jada Pinkett Smith.

Isn’t it something–how we all come from such different backgrounds but we are all so much alike?

I’m thinking there’s a lesson here.

“Nobody could hold the same place in your heart as your sister. Love or hate her, she was the only person who grew up exactly like you, who knew the secrets of your household—the laughter that only the walls of your house contained or the screaming at a level low enough the neighbors couldn’t hear, the passive aggressive compliments or the little put-downs. Only your sister could know how it felt to grow up in the house that made you you.” 

Jessica Taylor, A Map for Wrecked Girls

I am…

B…simply being…





First Born

To our First Born

First born children are full of grace. God grants to them a special place. They with deep thoughts and loving heart. Give of their best from the very start. Because you make your parents smile. We’re proud of you, our first born child.  Perry Tankelsey

I’m sure it’s no surprise I am the oldest child in my family.

Yesterday I read several online articles about the characteristics of first born children. Nothing I read surprised me. What it did was confirm what I’d experienced as a child and in my professional career.

Carina Wolff describes what I would call personality types shared by first borns in her article, “7 Interesting Habits All First Born Children Have In Common.”

  • First born children tend to make friends with other first born children because they share the same traits. These kids are the leaders because they are used to taking charge at home. As if to balance out this take charge attitude, first born kids are also more conscientious.
  • First borns are more independent and have no fear of taking off on their own. Ms. Wolff felt that this was due to the parent’s focus on the younger children leaving the oldest to take care of themselves.
  • First borns are caregivers because their younger siblings looked to them for comfort, help, guidance, and protection.
  • First borns are leaders and are often the ones to take charge since this is the role they played in their families. The University of Georgia found most of the US presidents were first born as well as astronauts and CEOs.
  • First borns are hard workers because they are achievement oriented. As their younger siblings arrived, the attention was shifted from them to their siblings. In order to get attention the first borns had to work harder to make an impression.
  • First borns follow directions well and are most likely to conform because they had one-on-one parental attention without sibling competition.
  • First borns are better at picking up a second language. A study in Frontiers in Psychology found in bilingual families the oldest showed better second language skills.
  • Lastly, according to this article, first borns are less likely to take on risky behaviors and are better behaved in their teen years.

From an article in the online Parents Magazine, How Birth Order Shapes Personalities, by Natalie Lorezi, I learned about first, middle, youngest, and the only child birth orders. For today, I’m sharing information on the first born.

Ms. Lorezi cited work done by Frank Sulloway, PhD, a birth order expert and the author of, Born to Rebel. According to Dr. Sulloway personalities do not hinge on birth order but on the roles siblings take on that lead to differences in behavior. The methods used by children differed depending on the position they held in the family line-up. As each child developed their individual roles, the parents unknowingly reinforced them.

The oldest child has the parent’s undivided attention and the parents are the child’s only role models. He or she mirrors the parents behaviors, follows their lead, and takes charge. The first born likes taking charge and does so with confidence. Kevin Leman, PhD, states first borns are so confident because they don’t have older siblings making fun of them as they learn. The adults take them very seriously and encourage their progress which further boosts their confidence.

All this attention is a set up for first borns to become perfectionists. Because adults are their role models, the standards they set for themselves are unreasonably high. They watch the adults pour their milk without spilling and color within the lines. Their observations become their expectations. The first born wants to get it exactly right the first time. This unrealistic goal may prevent them from trying new things. If they try to do new things, they may make a mistake which would not be acceptable. It is this perfectionist trait that makes it hard for the first born to admit when they’re wrong.

It’s not hard to see why first born children are uptight. Their inexperienced parents were over protective as well as being strict and demanding. The parents assign the eager-to-please first born extra responsibilities which, when completed successfully, were rewarded with more privileges.

As I begin my study of me, I really had no idea where to begin. I found these articles archived in my reading list and thought it’d be a good place to start. As I read I found each article to be surprisingly helpful and enlightened me more than I expected.

While I made my notes and thought about what I’d read, I began to understand there were and are legitimate reasons why I did or didn’t do well in certain situations. This awareness gave me hope and reinforced my feeling that I was finally on the right track.

“A Prayer for Daily Insight

Open my eyes, God. Help me to perceive what I have ignored, to uncover what I have forgotten, to find what I have been searching for. Remind me that I don’t have to journey far to discover something new, for miracles surround me, blessings and holiness abound. And You are near. 


Naomi Levy, Talking to God: Personal Prayers for Times of Joy, Sadness, Struggle, and Celebration

I am…

B…simply being…